Five years ago, on Nov. 15, 2011, Drake unleashed his sophomore album, Take Care. By then, he was already a bonafide star thanks to his breakout mixtape, 2009’s So Far Gone, and his debut album, 2010’s Thank Me Later, but he was out to prove that his early success was no fluke.
That’s exactly what he did with Take Care, which solidified Drizzy’s star power, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 631,000 units in its first week. Singles like “Take Care” (No. 7), “Make Me Proud” (No. 9), “Headlines” (No. 13), and “The Motto” (No. 14) cracked the top 15 on the Hot 100. Looking back, it was clearly a sign of chart dominance to come.
But more than that, Take Care allowed Drake to revel in his signature vulnerability, which was purposeful. “The goal for me this album was to dig even deeper,” Drake told “The Ricky Smiley Show” at the time. “[Someone] whose opinion I trust very much said, ‘I know there’s more. You’re giving surface raps and people are taking them like the deepest thoughts ever.'”
So, that’s what he tried to do, but the results were mixed. Pitchfork rated it 8.6/10 and said it was his “strongest set of songs so far” due to “over-sharing” over “lush and moody beats.” But Entertainment Weekly said he needed “a few more punchlines to brighten up his monochromatic therapy sessions.” Others offered variations of these praises and gripes.
Drake didn’t dig into those feelings alone on the star-studded effort. In fact, Take Care’s impressive guest list remains one of its most notable qualities with features from Rihanna (“Take Care”), Nicki Minaj (“Make Me Proud”), André 3000 (“The Real Her”), Kendrick Lamar (“Buried Alive Interlude”), and Lil Wayne (“HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” and “The Real Her”), to name a few. All of them, of course, were at various stages in their careers, but they each provided stellar guest spots.
Perhaps the most important guest on the album though was The Weeknd, who appears on “Crew Love.” Despite only being featured on that one song, Abel Tesfaye’s fingerprints are all over the album, with credits on “Shot for Me,” “Good Ones Go Interlude,” and “The Ride.” Last year, Abel explained why this was bittersweet for him, shedding more light on the behind-the-scenes process. “I gave up almost half of my album,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s hard. I will always be thankful—if it wasn’t for the light he shined on me, who knows where I’d be? And everything happens for a reason.”
But even artists who didn’t work on the album were vital to its creation. For instance, Drake credited British rapper Sneakbo for influencing his cadences. “He inspired the way I rapped on ‘Cameras’ or ‘Take Care,'” he admitted during an interview with ThisIsMax. “Just the flows that I chose.”
Battle rappers like Hollow Da Don and The Saurus also inspired the project. “It gets me excited in the studio, to watch these rappers, to see them rap for a whole different cause,” Drake told The Village Voice at the time.
Musically, the album pulled from various sources, too. Drake’s longtime producer and right-hand man, Noah “40” Shebib, oversaw the album and brought in help from Jamie xx, T-Minus, Boi-1da, and The Weeknd, among others. The project also benefits from samples of Gil Scott-Heron, DJ Screw, Jon B, and more.
All of these influences worked to help Drake craft one of his most celebrated albums yet, one that’s been called his best ever. According to Drizzy, that’s what he was aiming for, much more than he was aiming at commercial success.
“It’s truly a story that I’m telling with music that isn’t necessarily created to have chart positions or the radio,” he told Vevo. “I just really needed to tell this story.”
Take Care remains an influential force, its impact evident in countless hip-hop and R&B songs that pull from its brooding, emotional undertones. Five years later, the 6 God finds himself at the top of the game with record-setting feats (like over a billion streams). But looking back, Take Care is a vital puzzle piece to the bigger picture.